Abdur Rahman Mian
Most of the history of present day mankind is held hostage to the past century. The acts, deeds, wars, causalities and scientific developments that took place are a matter of records. Please permit me to list a few of them, as thus:-
Adult franchise and women’s right to vote got realized.
First World War (WW-I) started on July 18, 1914 and spread by and between German, British, Ottoman, Russian and Japanese Empires. Kingdoms of Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and also Hejaz were obliged to participate. Countries like Belgium, Austria and Thailand joined-in. Of course the Third Republic of France, the First Republic of Portuguese plus the United States of America participated. The last one could not be left out of any war: Cold or Hot, ever since!
Sykes-Picot Agreement was secretly agreed upon by and between the British and French envoys on May 19, 1916 – though the document as Asia Minor Agreements was later signed by other deputies. It set up the West for progress and up-set plus disintegration for the Arab territories of Ottoman Empire. They got fragmented into several areas of influence between the British and the French surrogates. The conquerors in the Middle East were in such a great hurry that they named thousands of square miles of desolate desert undivided among Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait under the suzerainty of the three neighbours. This, of course is before the oil discoveries in the region.
Oil discoveries. Although Baku Oil springs of white naphtha existed since the 9th century but it was treated more of a nuisance than of any value. The Pennsylvania Oil springs made their mark during the 19th century but it hardy had any Industrial use.
Oil in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia was discovered years after it was in Texas, USA. Real Industrial revolution was launched when the Internal Combustion Engine made its mark as a prime mover for the Industry and Automobiles. It proved to be of a lot more convenience than coal fired cumbersome steam engines.
Balfour Declaration. In fact it was a letter dated Nov. 2, 1917 written by Arthur James Balfour the Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom to Baron Walter Rothschild for onward pacification of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. And to establish a Homeland for the refugee Jewish community, currently known as Israel.
The Bolshevik Revolution (Oct-Nov 1917). The Russian Revolution commenced with the return of Vladimir Lenin to his homeland Russia. The revolution demolished the centuries old monarchy of Tsar Nicholas II and initiated the bloody establishment of Soviet Union. (Later history proved the Soviet hierarchy did last but upto December 8, 1991).
The Versailles Treaty. That was signed in Hall of Mirrors by the conquerors; the Allied forces and the representatives of the vanquished Germany on June 28, 1919. The terms of Liabilities and Repatriations were so grave and humiliating that they almost facilitated the advent of Adolf Hitler and his party. US President (1913-1921) Thomas Woodrow Wilson was very tough on the vanquished Germens. The conditions were so derogatory that they certainly stirred World War-II. Almost fourteen years later the Reichstag building was put to flames by arson duly choreographed by Hitler’s Nazi cohorts.
Global Economic Depression. It commenced with the Wall Street crash in 1929 and spread to the all and sundry. It delivered the global communities – to the door steps of the WW-II in 1939.
Second World War (WW-II) started in Europe on September 1, 1939. Thirty one nations joined from all the continents of the globe except Antarctica. It ended by atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan on 6th& 9th of August 1945. The War ended on Sept 2, 1945. The lucky exceptions were Sweden and Switzerland in Europe. They grossly progressed.
Atlantic Charter. Unlike President Woodrow Wilson, US President Roosevelt warranted PM Churchill to visit with him during the Second World War. They made a rendezvous at Placenta Bay, East Coast of United States. They met on their War Ships and signed an agreement called ‘Atlantic Charter’ on August 12, 1941 that stipulated the off-loading of colonial system – by the way, almost six years before the Independence of the Indian Sub-Continent.
The gross total of deaths and causalities during one hundred years preceding the First World War were much less than the death toll of WW-I combatants in excess of 100,000,000! The injured were even more than twice as many. This human race misery was further aggravated and complicated by the wide spread of ‘Spanish Flu’. This disease was almost as lethal as the advent of Machine gun during WW-I. Millions were rendered destitute, in addition.
War and Progress are the fusion of two complementary cosmic forces. The First World War was no exception. The following scientific, political and technological breakthroughs however did take place:-
League of Nations. Twenty eight countries plus fourteen neutral nations appreciated the idea and joined in as the Founding Members on January 1, 1920. Some more joined later. Even Afghanistan joined in 1934. Germany and Japan quit it in 1935 and Italy followed suit in 1937!
The League of Nation had no authority but all the responsibilities. It had its last meeting on April 18, 1946 and soon thereafter it got dissolved. That’s what happens when a body has no authority to enforce its decisions. The failed experiment of the League of Nation, gave way to the creation of United Nations Organization after the WW-II, with a system of checks and balances, but the tilt is still there towards the strong and prosperous nations while the poor and under-developed nations continue to yearn for the fulfilment of their expectations from the UNO.
Adult Franchise. British Isles were governed by the elite land lords and the Bishops. WWI made them consider better and they legislated to enforce adult but all 21 years old males to have voting rights. Women folks had to wait for another decade and another Act by their Parliament; that too for a select class.
Women’s Rights to Vote. United States of America with the overdue encouragement by its enlightened President Woodrow Wilson passed the 19th Amendment to American Constitution and thus the American Woman got the legal rights to vote since 1920.
Geneva Protocol. Because of the reckless use of Chemical weapons in Europe was so heinous that it had to be banned. A protocol between most of the warring nations was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925. USA was the prime-mover of the Protocol. Somehow, it was the United States, which deemed it in order, to use Nuclear Weapons Just about 20 years alter – to end WW-II.
Medical Breakthroughs. It started with blood transfusions in the battle fields but soon graduated to scientific conservation of healthy classified bloods to remain available for peace time transfusions too. British Surgeon Glantz pioneered the art of so-called Plastic Surgery. He got ample candidates amongst the WW-I disfigured soldiers and veterans. He had ample opportunities to perfect his art.
Aviation & Aeronautical Industry. WW-I accorded a quantum leap boost to this industry. Soon after the War, as early as 1919 Aviators John Cloake and Arthur Brown flew over 1980 miles in sixteen hours and accorded a vital enthusiasm for the Aeronautical Industry.
Psycho-Somatic Disorder. The men and their officers could have hardly escaped these mental disorders. It proved to be a clarion call for psychological and psychiatric treatments for normal looking persons to be real normal members of the society. Due recognition was accord to the Psychologists and Psychiatrists.
Fine Arts, Literature & Culture. The post-WW-I quantum leap in the refinement of Fine Arts, Architecture, Literature and Culture is unmatched by even the aftermath of WW-II. The literature got refined. The Art & Architecture got reformed. No match of Flanders Field is on the book shelves, Canadian Lt. Colonel John McCrae’s epic poem. Surrealism was a novice art of thought process that got a due boost.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.